Following launch of LTE-M in October 2018, NTT DoCoMo achieved population coverage of 99.8% across Japan by spring of 2019. The carrier, which is Japan’s largest, now plans to work on rolling out NB-IoT over the coming year. NTT DoCoMo has formed alliances with partner manufacturers in relevant industries to market its LTE-M plans, which it does through enterprise teams across Japan.
NTT DoCoMo’s commercial proposition for LTE-M is based on a two-tariff model: a standard ‘IoT Plan’ and the more advanced ‘IoT Plan HS’. The IoT Plan costs 400 yen per month for a 2-year commitment, or subscribers can use it on a rolling contract for 800 yen per month. Monthly costs are capped at 1600 yen for users signing up for the 2-year package, or 1200 yen for the rolling contract. The IoT Plan HS costs 600 yen for a 2-year commitment, or a rolling contract can be taken out for 1000 yen.
The IoT Plan allows for data usage of approximately 30 MB with no extra charge, while the IoT Plan HS offers up to 150 MB of data. Maximum transmission and reception speed for the IoT Plan is 128 kbps; subscribers to the IoT Plan HS can enjoy standard LTE speeds until they exceed 3 GB data use, at which point they too will be limited to 128 kbps.
Uptake so far is thought to have been particularly strong in use cases related to remote monitoring; location tracing; device abnormality detection; and monitoring of water levels and landslides by the Japanese state. Because cellular LPWA technologies like LTE-M are highly appropriate for low power devices needing only small volumes of data (on the scale of KB and MB), NTT DoCoMo expects more such use cases relying on long-life batteries and solar power, where connection to commercial power sources in not available.
As more and more customers verify NTT DoCoMo’s LTE-M, adoption is expected to grow further with the volume of terminal models supporting it. NTT DoCoMo’s current expectation is that major deployment growth can be expected in the use of smart meters by electric power companies, a particularly popular use case in Asia Pacific.